June 12, 2008
Honey, they shrunk my maternity leave!
Father's Day is approaching fast, which means the media is going hog wild with stories on parental leave. But to keep things simple, today let's talk about moms taking time off when the baby comes; I'll get to dads tomorrow.
I don't have any kids of my own, unless you count this guy, but I watched with great curiosity as a close friend recently had her first kid at 40. Both she and her husband work full time, and while the non-profit agency she works for gave her 16 weeks' maternity leave, it was mainly on her dime.
Yesterday, Wall Street Journal Work & Family columnist Sue Shellenbarger wrote about how employers are "downsizing" both the length of and compensation for maternity leave, in an effort to boost the bottom line. Blame the rising cost of disability, which is largely how employers compensate moms on maternity leave, Shellenbarger notes.
To offset three, four, and sometimes six or more months of unpaid maternity leave, Shellenbarger writes, expecting parents rely on mommy-to-be's sick days and vacation days, as well as loans and credit cards. I agree with Shellenbarger that going into debt before you've even started the college fund is a bad idea, and that buckling down and saving as much extra cash as you can is a far better option. (However, I sincerely doubt that having to forego "new cars, big house, and pricey Jimmy Choo shoes" like one expecting mom she interviewed is a universal problem; we should all be so lucky to have those be our "tough cuts.")
Over on The Juggle, the WSJ's work and family blog, the discussion turned to moonlighting as a freelancer or taking on a part-time job on top on your day job to save the extra cash needed to finance maternity leave. As you can imagine, the reader comments ran the gamut, some for and some against taking on extra work.
My thought when I read the Juggle post: There goes enjoying your last few months as a family of two, just you and your S.O. (or, if you'll be raising baby solo, enjoying your last few months as a single gal with a nightlife). Rather than taking that one last vacation or pimping out the nursery, you or your significant other get to work a job and a half in order to save some shekels. I'm guessing the added stress -- or sleep deprivation before that bundle of joy even arrives -- doesn't do much to help a relationship, let alone the pregnancy itself. Call me crazy, but I always thought expecting moms were supposed to cut back on stress and rest up. The calm before the storm and all that.
What say you, silent peanut gallery? If any of you have a story to share about how you funded your maternity leave, I'd love to hear it. Comment away.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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